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Updated every Monday, one selected e-mail will be posted and answered here each week. With many years of experience in the film and television business, I look forward to providing answers to your questions about screenwriting or the entertainment industry in general.  Please send your e-mailed questions to: Script Advisor.  You may also wish to visit our Screenwriting Help E-Mails - The Archives.

This week's question

I've heard about this screenwriting thing where the hero says something that he will never do or something and he ends up doing it. Or he says something will never happen and it eventually does. How does this help a screenplay?

This week's Answer: 

Our Right To Have You Not Be Right

Actually, what you talk about happens in many movies and scripts and, if you're looking for it, you'll find it. It's human nature to enjoy opposites. If we burn our mouths with something hot, we'll grab something ice-cold to drink right after. We think mostly in black and white, in opposites. 

When a hero says something will never happen and, later, when that very thing happens, it gives us a type of pleasure because we like to say to the hero, "You were wrong. In fact, the opposite thing that you said would happen happened." We like to see heroes  be imperfect, which allows us to relate to them more in our own imperfection. We experience a type of subtle thrill when we get to say to the hero, "Ah-hah! You thought you knew, but you didn't!" 

We naturally and normally don't cater to hubris or bragging or self-aggrandizement, and we don't want to see that in our hero, and, when we detect these elements or even over-confidence, we want to "take the hero down a peg or two". We like it when the hero "spoke too soon" or wasn't able to be see everything that was coming on their path.

You can even use your skillful detecting of this writer's device, to use "opposite thinking" and ask yourself, "If the opposite of what he claims does happen, then how will this "opposite event" influence the story?"

Thus, in a sense, this "the hero speaks the opposite," moment if interpreted correctly can act as a foreshowing event or element.

But I would never, ever in the future use this device in my screenplays.

See what I mean?

Douglas Herman

Script Advisor

CLICK HERE (weekly offer) if you want me to read your script and show you how and where to put in an "hero speaks the opposite" moment. that service.


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